Urban Fathers' Liberation Front

Confused dads working out the city

Christmas and Glasgow

The tragedy in Glasgow this week has reminded me of the one night I spent in Glasgow on June 3, 1990.

Glasgow was European City of Culture and, in order to celebrate the city’s musical and artistic diversity, a major one-day festival – The Big Day – was planned for June 3 over several sites.  The event appealed to your young, wide-eyed and naïve narrator because Deacon Blue was to headline the event on Glasgow Green.  Because the event was free and this was perhaps my only chance to see the band in their (adopted) home city, I made the trek up to Glasgow from where I was studying in Leeds.

I’d long had an affinity with Scotland and Glasgow, but for the life of me I can’t explain why.  Deacon Blue had clearly had an influence, their debut album Raintown being metaphorically soaked in the city, but I also have pre-teen memories of wanting to be Scottish (I think Kenny Dalglish was a big influence).  By 1990, I’d never been to Glasgow (save for one or two brief changes of train on the way to Edinburgh) and I’ve only been back once since, and then only for an afternoon.  June 3, 1990 merely served to fan the flames of my romantic and slightly absurd Glaswegian notions.

I travelled to Glasgow alone that day.  I got off the train at Queen Street station and walked the length of the platform before stepping out into George Square.  It was midday and already crowded with people; music poured from a stage in the middle of the square; the high, historic buildings around the square gave off a grand, civic swell.  It was intoxicating; the city buzzed as it rocked.

My desire was to get to Glasgow Green early, ensuring a good spot for the evening concert at which Deacon Blue would play.  I almost immediately headed towards the Clyde and along the river to the site.  En route I passed another stage and paused to watch Eddi Reader do her thing, but as time was of the essence, I soon moved on to the Green.  I got there early enough to be one of a handful of people waiting for the barriers to be dropped. When they were, I ran with all my might towards the stage, my feet pounding the hard, hot ground; I almost tumbled halfway across as my excitement and anticipation outpaced the muscles in my legs.  When I got there, right at the front, I realised I had three hours until the concert started and probably nine until it concluded – my first concern was going to the toilet.  I now wondered if the muscles in my bladder could fair better than those in my thighs.

The gig itself was awesome.  It was a broad showcase of contemporary Scottish music – The Silencers, Hue and Cry, Wet Wet Wet, Big Country and, of course, Deacon Blue.  The crowd was estimated at 250,000; it was all shown on Channel 4.  I was right at the front, desperate for the loo.  Scottish media still – occasionally and wistfully – reminisce about that day; the day Glasgow united despite the political context, the mistrust of the Government, the decline of manufacture, the loss of jobs, the Poll Tax, the Tories.  A celebration, marinated in Tennents.

Of course, the day wasn’t ‘free’.  The walk back to Queen Street station was late.  I lost a library book.  I missed the last train home and, in the morning, they forced me to buy a new train ticket because I lost my train ticket too.

In the morning.  In the morning.  I spent an unplanned night in Glasgow.  I didn’t move from the steps of Queen Street station once I got there.  The shutters were down and there was no way onto the platform.  The steps were the only place to stay; to wait, until the trains started again.  I didn’t sleep.  I watched George Square through the night, and the people coming and going from the hotel entrance that shared those steps.  I never once felt afraid, or cold, or vulnerable and despite being alone, I never felt that either.  It was Glasgow, and it was drunk on pride.

My knowledge of Glasgow is weaned from the varying emotions and experiences of Ricky Ross and his expression of those things as though he’s a Scottish Bruce Springsteen – earnest, angry, tender, gritty, optimistic and heart-breaking.  Perhaps that is the city, too.  Those steps I spent the night on are roughly where the bin lorry hit the hotel in George Square this week.  Whilst based on one night in 1990, I know those steps, that hotel, that view, and I know something of the spirit of Glasgow people.  Coming at Christmas, the loss of six people is particularly hard.  My thoughts are with the people of the city and those who are missing someone this Christmas.

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Goodwill to all neighbours…

What a marvellous blog. That’s just how it felt. Even I felt a little Christmassy. Humbug.

Subversive Suburbanite

20141208-210931-76171113.jpg Tarmac nativity

Last Sunday we had what has become an annual event on our street – a spot of carol singing followed by more than a spot of mulled wine. (Okay, I made 12 litres. Oops.)

A neighbour suggested it three years ago. I was enchanted by the idea of what she called ‘bellowing in the street’, and realised that I have only once seen a group of carol singers out on the streets in the local suburbia (and that was up in the next postcode where they are all quite posh white and English). Three years later, I can’t seem to stop organising it.

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Bar of chocolate for a pound, sir?

We have a cute little high street where we live. I’ve eaten in a great Turkish restaurant out there this evening, with the kids, and it was throbbing with people.  We have Starbucks where the staff are friendly and it’s huge and cosy at the same time.  The pleasantness in there almost compensates for their limited contribution to the nation’s infrastructure.  We have a traditional hardware shop, a couple of small supermarkets, couple of pubs, an office suppliers, an independent card shop, a shoe shop and a sizable second hand bookshop and loads of other things that add up to a street where most of your every day needs are catered for.

We also have a tiny little WHSmith.  It’s just a bit bigger than a cupboard, and stocks a few books, a few papers, a few magazines and a selection of rulers.  It’s quite handy when an independent store doesn’t quite nail your stationery / news / emergency present needs.  It’s also been a little WHSmith oasis, because in most other WHSmith’s they seek to grind down the shopping experience by herding you to self-service machines, asking if you want a bar of chocolate for a pound, giving you endless vouchers for crap food or ocado shopping, churning our endless paper with £5 off printer cartridges (every time…really?) and refusing to give you a receipt for purchases coming under £5.

But now WHSMith’s mindless corporate policy making behemoth has rolled into even cupboard sized branches.  So, on Saturday, when purchasing an emergency present and birthday card, I came across a sign on the cash desk counter; please use the self-service machine.  I approached the desk, where two staff were standing doing fiddle-dee-dee and asked whether I had to use the machine.  ‘Yes’, they replied.  ‘It’s company policy,’ they said.  ‘Do grab your vouchers’, they continued, cheerlessly.  I commented that I hated using self service machines where they were completely unnecessary (like in branches the size of a backyard pond, where there are two staff, no queues and no-one buys anything more than a pack of envelopes and a paper).  ‘The company doesn’t listen to us’, one of the two employees muttered, by way of apology.  I suspect they won’t listen to me either.

One of the staff came round to the machine on the pretence of helping me.  She scanned all of my items, took my card and placed it in the machine and got my receipt for me.  That was EXACTLY WHAT SHE’D DONE IF SHE’D BEEN ON THE TILL.

I’ve loathed WHSmith’s descent into dumbed down shopping for a very long time.  Cash desks increasingly forlorn in branches; counters piled high with discounted chocolate; irrelevant vouchers and bits of paper thrust into your hand on leaving to dictate where else / when you shop and distressingly few staff within the stores themselves to actually help you find things and aid your experience.

Now their hideous policies are infiltrating my high street, I think I’ll go somewhere else.


IKEA: A new benchmark in customer service

I had a lovely day planned with the family today.  Indeed, we had a lovely day planned yesterday too.  But it’s all been sabotaged by IKEA.  We’re in the middle of a big internal build at home at the moment (week 12 of about 15) and the point has arrived where the kitchen needs to be ordered.  We’ve settled on an IKEA kitchen and have already endured two, two hour meetings preceded by long waits in the store because they’re overloaded with appointments (you have to wander round the store for a couple of hours waiting for your appointment).

Saturday saw us have another long appointment (preceded by a 90 minute wait) that finally saw us order and part with the cash (ouch).  IKEA deliver the next day, although the last time we’d threatened ordering, it would have been the day after tomorrow, so we were hoping for some negotiation They weren’t having that – it would be delivered the next day; today, Sunday.

We were given a 10-4 delivery window, but no finer detail within that.  We were due in west London for 1230, so we’d hoped for an early delivery.  When this didn’t materialise, my wife took the kids over and I stayed in for the delivery.  By 1530 I was convinced it wasn’t going to come.  I’d tried to ring IKEA once to check out where it might be, but had given up because of the ’30 minute waiting time’.  By 1530 though I persevered despite the ’60 minute waiting time’.  After 34 minutes, I got an answer – the delivery was on its way and would be here soon.  We’d had now gone past the original delivery window and were into no-man’s land.  I had also checked out the website.  I could send an email for help (which I did – they’ll respond to me within 5 days!) or I could ring the store (which was the same number as the general number and so, I suspect, not ringing the store at all).

The delivery arrived just after 1800, a full two hours beyond a six hour delivery window.  I’d been waiting a eight hours.  My wife was on her way back from the day out.  When I heard the doorbell ring, IKEA, it seemed, had decided to give three young lads a van to drive around in on the basis that they might pass by one of the houses on a list now and again.  They clearly been told not to apologise or show any concern for failing to hit a delivery target.  They were more concerned with where to park than bringing the stuff in, and didn’t put any of it where it needed to go (I accept it was in a vague vicinity, which might be their instruction).  There was no chance to look through to see if they’d delivered the right stuff and they left me unable to close the front door despite the rain outside.  All for £29.  Thanks IKEA!  Bargain!

I’ve had a grotty weekend.  The day out with the kids  has gone.  I’ve had to lug 123 individual boxes around the house having waited eight hours for a delivery that should have arrived at least two hours sooner.  I have spent more time than I care to think about in IKEA, and now they have my x-thousand quid they seem not to care a jot about the rest of my project and the safe arrival of my furniture.

Dear Richard.  Thanks you for being a valued IKEA customer.  Would you recommend us to a friend.  No, IKEA, f*ck off.


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Things that cause cancer

It’s been one of those weeks where my Facebook news feed has been full of scare stories about stuff and cancer.  Sadly, very little is helpful or comforting, and most of it is telling me I’m going to die of it because of my pathetic Western life.  I find the irony of being told that wi-fi causes cancer via the beauty of the internet quite galling.

Having spent eight years watch a fit, lively, intelligent, non-smoking, vegetarian white women under 40 succumb to a brain tumour I get a bit cheesed off with being told what specific things to avoid in order to prevent me from getting cancer as well.  Me, I just want to make the most I can of life in the fragile, limited time we have and worry about death when it comes knocking (whilst trying to keep a sensible handle on my exercise, balanced diet and alcohol intake).

So, purely in the pursuit of a good laugh, I’ve managed to find a list of things that the Daily Mail has linked to cancer or the causes of cancer.  If this isn’t enough to make you think that a lot of what you read is fear-mongering bullshit, I don’t know what is.

AGE [www.facebook.com]
AIR POLLUTION [www.dailymail.co.uk]
AIR TRAVEL [www.dailymail.co.uk] and [www.dailymail.co.uk]
ALCOHOL [www.dailymail.co.uk] and [www.dailymail.co.uk]
ALLERGIES [www.dailymail.co.uk]
ARTIFICIAL FLAVOURS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
ARTIFICIAL LIGHT [www.dailymail.co.uk]
ASBESTOS (as if it wasn’t bad enough already) [www.dailymail.co.uk]
ASPIRIN [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BABIES [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BABY BOTTLES [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BABY FOOD [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BACON [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BARBEQUES [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BEEF [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BEER [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BEING A BLACK PERSON [www.dailymail.co.uk] and [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BEING A WOMAN [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BEING A MAN [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BEING SOUTHERN [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BISCUITS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BLOWJOBS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BRAS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BREAD [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BREAST FEEDING [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BREAST IMPLANTS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BROKEN HEARTS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BUBBLE BATH [www.dailymail.co.uk]
BURGERS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CAFFEINE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CALCIUM [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CANDLE-LIT DINNERS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CANNED FOOD [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CARBOHYDRATES [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CARS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CEREAL [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CHEESE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CHICKEN [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CHILDLESSNESS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CHILDREN [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CHILDREN’S FOOD[www.dailymail.co.uk]
CHILLIS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CHINESE MEDICINE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CHIPS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CHLORINE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CHOCOLATE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CITY LIVING [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CLIMATE CHANGE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
COCA COLA [www.dailymail.co.uk]
COD LIVER OIL [www.dailymail.co.uk]
COFFEE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CONSTAPATION [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CONTRACEPTIVE PILLS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
COOKING [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CORDLESS PHONES [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CRAYONS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
CURRY [www.dailymail.co.uk]
DEODRANT [www.dailymail.co.uk]
DIETING [www.dailymail.co.uk]
DOGS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
EGGS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
ELECTRICITY [www.dailymail.co.uk]
ENGLISH BREAKFAST [www.dailymail.co.uk]
FACEBOOK [www.dailymail.co.uk]
FALSE NAILS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
FATHERHOOD [www.dailymail.co.uk]
FIBRE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
FISH [www.dailymail.co.uk]
FIZZY DRINKS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
FLIP FLOPS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
FLY SPRAY [www.dailymail.co.uk]
FRUIT [www.dailymail.co.uk]
GARDENS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
GRAPEFRUIT [www.dailymail.co.uk]
HAIR DYE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
HAM [www.dailymail.co.uk]
HEIGHT [www.dailymail.co.uk]
HONEY [www.dailymail.co.uk]
HOT DRINKS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
HRT [www.dailymail.co.uk]
INTERNET [www.dailymail.co.uk]
IVF [www.dailymail.co.uk]
KIDNEY TRANSPLATS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
LAMB [www.dailymail.co.uk]
LARGE HEADS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
LEFT-HANDEDNESS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
LIPSTICK [www.dailymail.co.uk]
LIVER TRANSPLANTS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
MENOPAUSE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
MENSTRUATION [www.dailymail.co.uk]
METAL [www.dailymail.co.uk]
MILK [www.dailymail.co.uk]
MOBILE PHONES [www.dailymail.co.uk]
MODERN LIVING [www.dailymail.co.uk]
MONEY [www.dailymail.co.uk]
MORPHINE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
MOUTHWASH [www.dailymail.co.uk]
NUCLEAR POWER (there is no hint of irony in this article) [www.dailymail.co.uk]
OBESITY [www.dailymail.co.uk]
OESTROGEN [www.dailymail.co.uk]
OLDER FATHERS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
PASTRY [www.dailymail.co.uk]
PEANUT BUTTER [www.dailymail.co.uk]
PERFUME [www.dailymail.co.uk]
PICKLES [www.dailymail.co.uk]
PIZZA [www.dailymail.co.uk]
PLASTIC BAGS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
PORK [www.dailymail.co.uk]
POTATOES [www.dailymail.co.uk]
POVERTY [www.dailymail.co.uk]
PREGNANCY [www.dailymail.co.uk]
RADIOACTIVITY (again, just no irony whatsoever) [www.dailymail.co.uk]
RICE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
SAUSAGES [www.dailymail.co.uk]
RETIREMENT [www.dailymail.co.uk]
SEX [www.dailymail.co.uk]
SHAVING [www.dailymail.co.uk]
SKIING [www.dailymail.co.uk]
SOUP [www.dailymail.co.uk]
SPACE TRAVEL [www.dailymail.co.uk]
SUN CREAM [www.dailymail.co.uk]
TALCUM POWDER [www.dailymail.co.uk]
TEA [www.dailymail.co.uk]
TEEN SEX [www.dailymail.co.uk]
THIRD HAND SMOKE (read article and you’ll understand) [www.dailymail.co.uk]
VITAMINS [www.dailymail.co.uk]
WATER [www.dailymail.co.uk]
WI-FI [www.dailymail.co.uk]
WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE [www.dailymail.co.uk]
WORKING [www.dailymail.co.uk]
X-RAYS [www.dailymail.co.uk]

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I’ve just noticed a clock…


Can you see the clock?

I’ve been pretty indifferent about the new clock in the middle of Palmers Green high street.  I first got wind of the news that such a project was happening in 2013.  The idea was to liven up the tatty little traffic island in a wider space known locally as ‘The Triangle’ at the main junction in Palmers Green.  There used to be a tree on it, but it had to be removed when it became diseased.  The absence of a feature there has troubled the local influentials ever since.  The clock idea filled me with utter dread; it’s hardly the most original idea and there are many truly great clock towers in other parts of the country that set a high bar for such a focal point – you only have to go down the road to Crouch End to see the iconic impact of a good clock tower.  Also knowing the of the promoters of the idea – the Green Lane Business Association, aggressive objectors to the mini-Holland idea project and on the basis of that meeting lacking any ability to respond to different perspectives – I gave the project a wide berth.

Said clock has now been in place for about a month, and to be honest, it’s barely noticeable, so it hadn’t troubled my sensibilities.  And given it’s so insignificant, I shouldn’t really comment, but the missed opportunity just makes me angry at the waste of public money (some of the funding came from the Residents Priority Fund).

The Triangle – the wider space – in Palmers Green is a reasonable piece of urban design.  Far more than a tatty traffic island, it’s an early 20th century focal point of a compact suburban town centre.  It is framed by well scaled buildings – many of them ornate and historic, rich in colour and detail – and offers interesting views to it on the approach roads.  It’s a busy hive of activity with shops, services and food and drink available on its three sides.  There’s movement across the roads, between the station and the high street, in and out of the shops.  People can sit outside and watch other people.  It is a place with much potential from a sympathetic and effective strategic design approach.  The tree must have once really made it special.

Coming through the space this evening, I looked at the clock.  Notwithstanding the effort put it by local traders and craftsmen in bringing it together, and the supposed influences cited from the surroundings, the clock lacks any command or status within the street scene.  It’s small and slender frame is lost; the clock face is often blocked by various paraphernalia surrounding it – traffic lights, street lights, a way finding sign, utility boxes, cctv stands….  It’s been hurriedly plonked in a random part of the island with no thought to the floorscape or the context.  The heritage / Victoriana approach is lazy, tired, undemanding and unoriginal, the lowest common denominator of civic intervention in the public realm and hardly offering the past any respect or the future anything to remember us by.  And do we really need a clock?

A little digging reveals that the designer came to the project late, with no previous experience of built structures and the ideas for the clock imposed upon her.  Consultation on the Palmers Green Community website shows half of those responding disliking the design.

Indifference remains the word.  It’s a missed opportunity in its own right; it’s premature in light of the promised interventions in the wider public realm in the medium term and it’s a bad idea poorly executed with a sloppy design.  Given that it’s lost in a sea of poles on an isolated traffic island, it’s probably just as well no-one will notice it.

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My sublimely subversive weekend

My subversive neighbour on her street play experience.

Subversive Suburbanite

It started with a cycle cash mob. If you don’t know what one of those is, I’m not sure we did either just over a month ago, if indeed there ever was such a thing…

Bike spenders Bike spenders

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Word from the street (play)


Street Buzz

July 2014. Street Play: Devonshire Road, our second monthly event.

It’s half an hour before the event, and some of the kids from up the road are already circling on their bikes, waiting. The sun is hitting the street, the patchy clouds offering little resistance. A gentle breeze is in the bright green leaves of this suburban London road.

I’m setting up, at the top of the road, counting the minutes down, and then the seconds, until we can draw the barriers across the road and put up the ‘Road Closed’ sign, right in the middle. Then, silence. No more unwanted cars on this residential road. Our cycling enthusiasts take to the tarmac, and I walk back along the street, right in the middle, knowing I don’t need to look back. After all the anticipation of the start, now the anticipation of what the event will bring.

Second time is more relaxed. No-one is wondering what they should do. The adults lean by the walls, beginning to chat, making introductions where they don’t know each other. Some are sipping tea. There’s cake. Less cautious, the pre-teens have loaded their water pistols and are chasing each other in and out of gardens. There’s noise. Some of the youngest are on scooters or plastic ride-on cars. There are others chalking on the pavements and on the road in gaudy colours. Five foam footballs, kicked, follow the camber of the road and ultimately lodge under parked cars to be largely forgotten.

After an hour or so, with occasional interruptions for returning or leaving residents walked out of the street in their cars behind the stewards – oh, the power – there are twenty to thirty kids of varying ages wide-eyed and alive, engrossed in activities; packs race through the middle backwards and forwards on two, three or four wheels (we await our first uni-cycler) whilst others skip, chalk, chase and squirt. Adults stand by, watching, participating, talking. Some have the nerve to scoot. A neighbour without kids brings out his young parrot and a jug of grapes. Some of the kids are momentarily diverted and watch the bird devour the soft fruit. Buzz Lightyear is chalked onto the middle of the street, a homage to the bespectacled boy causing minor mayhem in a Lightyear cozzie.

Casual activities perpetuate for another hour until a sudden rush of returning cars at the end of the afternoon disrupts the flow, and before we know it, we’re pulling back the barriers and removing our signs; the cars take back the road again.

Our soldiers will take back the street again, briefly, next month and, one day, the war will be ours and we alone will rule the street.

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Wolfson Economics Prize

IMG_2587The Wolfson Economic Prize is a relatively new economics competition  organised and funded by Simon Wolfson, Baron Wolfson of Aspley Guise, and run by the Policy Exchange think tank.  The first Prize was run in 2012 and asked entries to submit proposals as to how the Eurozone could be safely dismantled.  It attracted 425 entries from across the world, and was was submitted by the team led by Roger Bootle from Macroeconomics research consultancy firm Capital Economics, entitled Leaving the Euro: A Practical Guide.

A second prize was launched in November 2013.  The subject of the prize has been hotly debated for some time, and remains a topic of political and professional debate in response to one of the major issues facing this country at the current time; the housing crisis.  The question posed by the prize organisers was, “How would you deliver a new Garden City which is visionary, economically viable, and popular?”.

Garden cities were first established in Hertfordshire, at Letchworth and then Welwyn, and have been one of the greatest achievements of town and country planning.  Their success, largely acknowledged in hindsight, prompted the development of the new towns in Britain in the post war years, which arguably culminated in the most complete and best realised form at Milton Keynes.  There’s an affection for garden cities at the moment – the Coalition Government revived the idea in designating Ebbsfleet earlier this year, and they also published a prospectus to promote the idea amongst local authorities or similar partnerships following that announcement.  A recent poll conducted by the Policy Exchange suggests support for garden cities is high across the board.

My wife and I decided to enter the competition, and we spent many hours between November and the closing date in early March mulling over the issues, the possible solutions and scenarios and our many ideas for a beautiful, fully realised future city based on the garden cities principle.  It all culminated in mad weekend where we toiled on our submission for a joint total of 40 hours to get the thing completed and submitted.  We were inspired by Milton Keynes, and tried to be creative in expressing our vision, using a time travelling Mayor to express his delight at having lived in our garden city for a quarter of a century, since moving there in 2021.  We pondered what it meant to be popular and visionary – can there be such a thing? – and defined our garden city as something very different to that which is almost embarrassingly proposed at Ebbsfleet.

And today, you can see our entry published by the judges.  Amongst 279 entries, our was highly commended and was recognised,

“for a financially-aware and credible proposal with a very clear survey of relevant financial issues. The Judges enjoyed this entry’s introspection into the definition of key terms in the Prize Question and the way it presented a vision of the future through the eyes of the city’s future Mayor. They felt it was a human proposal designed for people”.

We cannot express how chuffed we are.


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75 Great Cover Versions

Part three of the blog indulgence is a list of cover versions.  I love a good cover version for what it can bring to a well known song, for introducing you to new artists or a breadth of artists you already know, and to re-engage you in a song you thought you didn’t like.  A good cover version brings something new; some good cover versions will trick you into thinking the song is an original – indeed, some cover versions are the definitive version – think Tainted Love, Always on My Mind or Hallelujah.

Tori Amos is a bit of a champion of the cover; her version of Smells Like Teen Spirit was probably when I first realised the potential in re-interpreting songs.  She’s done some other corkers as well, from Slayer to Chas ‘n’ Dave.  Some will note a cover of Bohemian Rhapsody by Fuzzbox – the original by Queen was in my most hated songs, but the Fuzzbox version – a loopy acapella romp is genuinely hilarious.  There are a couple of oddities in there – Eddi Reader is best known for Patience of Angels, which was written by Boo Hewerdine who then recorded it in 2006; his might be the cover.  Likewise, the Gwen Stefani and Annie Lennox tracks are both obscure Keane tracks, the originals of which won’t be known to many.  Check out the Arctic Monkeys ‘Love Machine’ – a band really having fun with a song.

There are a couple of covered songs here that appear twice – Love Will Tear Us Apart, Hallelujah and Always on My Mind (though the Elvis version isn’t one of them), a couple of artists whose songs are covered a couple of times and hopefully one or two surprises… Original artists are in brackets.

  1. 29 Palms – American Girl (Tom Petty)
  2. A-ha – Crying in the Rain (Everly Brothers)
  3. Alison Krauss – Baby, Now That I Found You (The Foundations)
  4. Amy Winehouse – Valerie (The Zutons)
  5. Annie Lennox – Pattern of My Life (Keane; originally Closer Now)
  6. Arctic Monkeys – Love Machine (Girls Aloud)
  7. Avril Lavigne – The Scientist (Coldplay)
  8. Barry Manilow – If Tomorrow Never Comes (Garth Brooks)
  9. Beautiful South – You’re the One That I Want (Olivia Newton John/John Travolta)
  10. Bloc Party – Say it Right (Nelly Furtado)
  11. Brooke Fraser – Distant Sun (Crowded House)
  12. Communards – Don’t Leave Me This Way (Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes)
  13. Corrine Bailey Rae – Munich (Editors)
  14. David Gray – Say Hello Wave Goodbye (Soft Cell)
  15. Deacon Blue – It’s Not Funny Anymore (Husker Du)
  16. Deacon Blue – Trampolene (Julian Cope)
  17. Devendra Banhart – Don’t Look Back in Anger (Oasis)
  18. Eddi Reader – Patience of Angels (Boo Hewerdine)
  19. Erasure – Take a Chance on Me (ABBA)
  20. Fat Lady Sings – Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard (Paul Simon)
  21. Flaming Lips – Can’t Get You Out of My Head (Kylie Minogue)
  22. Fuzzbox – Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen)
  23. Girls Aloud – Teenage Dirtbag (Wheatus)
  24. Glenn Campbell – Good Riddance (Green Day)
  25. Gossip – Careless Whisper (George Michael)
  26. Guns N Roses – Live and Let Die (Wings)
  27. Gwen Stefani – Early Winter (Keane)
  28. Happy Mondays – Step On (John Kongos)
  29. Hootie and the Blowfish – Driver 8 (REM)
  30. Horse – Wichita Lineman (Glenn Campbell)
  31. Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
  32. John Mayer – Free Falling (Tom Petty)
  33. Johnny Cash – One (U2)
  34. Jose Gonzalez – Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division)
  35. kd lang – Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
  36. Keane – Under Pressure (Queen and David Bowie)
  37. Keaton Henson – You Were Always on Mind (Gwen McCrae)
  38. Kim Wilde – You Keep Me Hanging On (The Supremes)
  39. King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – I’ve Been Losing You (a-ha)
  40. Kirsty MacColl – A New England (Billy Bragg)
  41. KT Tunstall – Tangled Up in Blue (Bob Dylan)
  42. KT Tunstall – The Prayer (Bloc Party)
  43. KT Tunstall – Boys of Summer (Don Henley)
  44. Kylie Minogue – Can’t Get Blue Monday Out of my Head (New Order)
  45. Lemar – I Believe in a Thing Called Love (The Darkness)
  46. Lily Allen – Mr Blue Sky (ELO)
  47. Manic Street Preachers – Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head (BJ Thomas)
  48. Mindy Smith – Jolene (Dolly Parton; Parton features on this version)
  49. Nerina Pallot – Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division)
  50. Nouvelle Vague – Guns of Brixton (The Clash)
  51. Pet Shop Boys – Always on my Mind (Gwen McCrae)
  52. Phil Collins – Can’t Stop Loving You (Leo Sayer)
  53. REM – The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Solomon Linda; originally Mbube)
  54. Renee Geyer – Into Temptation (Crowded House)
  55. River City People – California Dreaming (The Mamas and the Papas)
  56. Robbie Williams – Louise (Human League)
  57. Elvis Costello – She (Charles Aznavour)
  58. Sixpence None the Richer – There She Goes (The La’s)
  59. Smith and Burrows – Wonderful Life (Black)
  60. Soft Cell – Tainted Love (Gloria Jones)
  61. Stephen Lindsay – Monkey Gone to Heaven (Pixies)
  62. Stereophonics – Handbags and Gladrags (Chris Farlowe)
  63. Take That – Relight My Fire (Dan Hartman)
  64. The Big Dish – Refugee (Tom Petty)
  65. The Civil Wars – Billie Jean (Michael Jackson)
  66. The Futureheads – Hounds of Love (Kate Bush)
  67. The Streets – Your Song (Elton John)
  68. Thea Gilmore – Bad Moon Rising (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
  69. Tom McRae – Wonderful Christmastime (Paul McCartney)
  70. Tori Amos – Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)
  71. Travis – Hit Me Baby One More Time (Britney Spears)
  72. U2 – Everlasting Love (Love Affair)
  73. Vonda Shepherd – This Ole Heart of Mine (The Isley Brothers)
  74. Will Young – Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush)
  75. Wonder Stuff and Vic Reeves – Dizzy (Tommy Roe)
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